ben watt

Review: 30 Years Later Ben Watt Hasn’t Lost His Finesse On New ‘Hendra’ LP

It’s been over 30 years since Ben Watt released a solo album, North Marine Drive. In that time, he has had a more varied career than most of his contemporaries. As half of alt-folk darlings turned dance pop superstars Everything But the Girl with wife Tracey Thorn, Watt elevated electronica to a fresh level of mainstream viability with songs like “Missing” and “Wrong” long before anyone dreamed up “EDM.” Further immersing himself in beats, Watt became a DJ, producer, remixer, and promoter, ultimately launching his own party Lazy Dog, and record label, Buzzin’ Fly – check his classic take on Sade’s “By Your Side” or his collaboration with Estelle on “Pop a Cap in Yo Ass” for primers on his template-setting deep house touch. Like Tracey, Ben is also an author and has written two well-received memoirs. On a heavier note, he has also dealt with an autoimmune disease, the recent deaths of his father and sister, and found himself at a mid-life crossroads – “a pop musician in an electronic world.”

All of these experiences have been distilled eloquently through Watt’s imagination into not one, but two touching and personal works: his most recent memoir, Romany and Tom (about his creative parents’ complex relationship, out in June on Bloomsbury Press) and his new album, Hendra (out April 29, on Unmade Road). The concurrent release of both the book and the album provide a stereo glance into Watt’s life and creativity. Here’s a man, a husband, father, artist who has spent much of his life in the spotlight, just as his parents had aspired to in their day. The echoes of history may haunt Watt, but in his music and books, Ben has wrestled his way through the thickets with earnest and rhythmic writing that is confessional without feeling solipsistic, poignant without feeling contrived, terse without feeling emaciated, and revelatory without feeling exploitative. His ability to slip subtle twists into unexpected moments in his narratives and lyrics creates hooks that sink into and bait one’s own memories. His knack for juxtaposing details of inner and outer worlds is a case study in the tried and true axiom “make the personal universal.”

On the album, Hendra, Ben’s finesse with both dance and rock music manifests in his skillful meshing of tropes and choice of partners - electronic producer Ewan Pearson adds a crystalline digital sonic sheen, Suede’s Bernard Butler adds some analog pop muscle; and David Gilmour’s slide guitar imparts a dreamy grandeur to “The Levels”. “Nathaniel” is a swinging up-tempo ditty inspired by a post-mortem graffiti tribute he rode past in Oregon. Using sunny, ‘70s West Coast-style vocals and guitar, Watt crafts a meditation on how the tragedy of strangers becomes political theater, albeit in a manner that is blissfully more palatable than this description could ever. On “Matthew Arnold’s Field”, a keyboard and vocal driven ballad, he describes scattering his father’s ashes in a deeply symbolic environment without losing sight of other people around him, among them a couple in the thick of mundane life, having tea and eating sandwiches. The permeability between life and death is also explored on “The Gun” which tackles the controversial theme of violence without hopping on a soap box, instead highlighting the ironic horror weapons advocates experience when the karmic woods come to their gated McCastles, as it were. The title track “Hendra” has a mystical, David Crosby vibe to it. On “Young Man’s Game”, a bar room sing-along waiting to be tapped, Watt muses on aging and his place in the (music) world as he’s evolved from a multitasking boy Midas to a wizened elder – one pretty content with lot in life.

At times Hendra evokes the blue-eyed soul, pastoral folk and electronic noodling of boom bap aficionado Scritti Politti or Scottish troubadour King Creosote who also delved into electronic pop with Jon Hopkins. In other places, it invokes Neil Young, John Lennon, Santana. Through it all, however, it’s Watt’s story and he tells it his way. "Words, beats and notes - it's all we have. It's just a question of playing them in what feels like the right order at the right time, and at the moment, 'Hendra' just feels right," Watt has said. We couldn’t agree more.

Watt will be doing a short tour of the US in June. Check his site for details.
http://benwatt.com/dates

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David Becker

Fans Tweet About Erykah Badu's Defense Of R. Kelly At A Chicago Show

Erykah Badu has remained silent after Lifetime aired the six-part docuseries Surviving R. Kelly. The singer and entertainer who once referred to Kelly as her "brother" while hosting the Soul Train Awards and has kept a low profile during the series.

Badu has finally broken her silence during a show at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom in which attendees say the Grammy-award winning singer defended Kelly and instructed others to "keep their opinions to themselves."

Erykah Badu came to Chicago and told us all she finna love R Kelly anyway & we can keep our opinion to ourselves. Mad disrespectful to our city and a shitty use of her platform. Crusty ass bitch.

— hot headed yam (@tomapapito) January 20, 2019

Another attendee tweeted Badu attempt at trying to bring light to the hypocrisy in the public outcry against Kelly.

“what if one of the people who was assaulted by R Kelly becomes an offender? we gonna crucify them too?” -erykah badu at her chicago concert

— IG: @boydonavin (@boyDonavin) January 20, 2019

Many in attendance were hurt by Badu's actions and left conflicted.

I really want to say how much i loved Erykah Badu’s concert tonight.

But i can’t get over how she tried to justify and defend R. Kelly’s actions and reputation during her set... I’m so disappointed...

— jacque (@jacquemarquez_) January 20, 2019

I really don’t want to believe Erykah Badu is sacrificing her music legacy for R. Kelly. I don’t. everyone has their ignorance and places that deeply disappoint me, including my favorite artists (and myself), but supporting child predators is such a nefarious thing to do.

— Myles E. Johnson (@hausmuva) January 20, 2019

This isn't the first time Badu has come under fire for what many deem to be problematic commentary. In April 2016, Badu agreed with a school district that was making it mandatory for girls to wear longer skirts as a way to not "distract" the boys.

Erykah Badu's defense of R. Kelly prompted Twitter to dig up old tweets.

erykah badu already told y’all she doesn’t believe GIRLS when it comes to matters of sexual assault, harassment, rape, etc. so why y’all shocked now? pic.twitter.com/Eogzatc9aO

— ALEXIS$ 🧚🏾‍♀️ (@lexxdadon) January 20, 2019

Erykah Badu said she empathizes with Hitler because he was a beautiful painter. Why are y'all surprised?

— Experiment 625 (@Mariah__Cara) January 20, 2019

Writer and director dream hampton said Badu was one of many celebrities she contacted to be in the series but denied her request.

Does Erykah Badu's defense of R. Kelly make you think twice about the singer? Will you continue to listen to Badu's music, or does the defense of R. Kelly mean she's now an enabler? Sound off in the comments.

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Michael Steele

Drake's "In My Feelings" Received The Kidz Bop Treatment

After the release of Drake's chart-topping Scorpion album, his single "In My Feelings" skyrocketed to number one, so it's no surprise the City Girls assisted track received the Kidz Bop treatment.

Since 2000, the compilation LP has sold about 17 million copies and over the weekend, Kidz Bop released its 39th installment offering the world a G-rated and tween-friendly version of today's biggest hits.

Once Twitter learned Kidz Bop laid its prepubescent hands on Drake's song, there was a mixed bag of feelings. Some went along with it and commented positively, while others were frankly offended.

I just saw a Kidz Bop commercial with the Kidz Bop version of In My Feelings and I feel like a curse has been placed on me

— Jeremy (@TacticalRPG) January 10, 2019

That Kidz Bop version of In My Feelings lets me know that hell is a real place.

— Nappy Head Nietzsche (@AugustCulture) January 19, 2019

This #KidzBop version of "In My Feelings" is SENDING me! 😂 pic.twitter.com/EQzTwdbfb6

— Nicholas D. (@Creat1ve) January 18, 2019

This isn't the first time Drake's music has been Kidz Bopped. For Kidz Bop 31, "Hotline Bling" was also featured. The new 18-track album also features Cardi B's "I Like It" as well as Khalid and Normani's "Love Lies."

The lyrics to the hook received a slight change.

KiKi do you love me/are you with me/say you'll never ever leave from beside me/cause I want ya/and I need ya/and I'm down for ya always

And when it came time for the City Girls portion of the song, they turned that down as well.

all of us kids and we hangin' in the rain/hangin' in rain/I need a black card with the code to the safe/code to the safe.

Hey, kids need love too. Watch the Kidz Bop version of Drake's "In My Feelings" below.

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Sarah Duncan

South Carolina High School Students May Soon Take A Personal Finance Class

High school students in South Carolina may now have to pass a personal finance class in order to receive their diploma.

According to reports, Republican lawmakers Luke Rankin and Horry County Senator have filed a pre-bill that will require high school students to take a class that will aim to help students learn how to better budget their money.

"You can really put yourself in a really bad hole that you're gonna be digging yourself out of the rest of your life," financial planner Dr. Christopher St. John said.

The course will cover insurance, taxes, retirement planning, budgeting, banking, and how to avoid too much debt.

Finance website Make Lemonade reports there are more than 44 million borrowers who owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt within the United States. Student loan debt has become the second highest debt among consumers followed by mortgage debt.

The class of 2016, reportedly has $37,172 in student loan debt.

If the bill is passed, it would go into effect for the 2020-2021 school year. The course would be required and student who take a test at the end of the year prior to graduation.

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